Thursday, July 14, 2011

Montana, Part 1

Well, first of all I am happy to report that we all survived our encounter with the bear, and yes, in fact, there was an encounter with a bear (!!) but I'll be telling you about that later, since we have to wade through approximately five thousand pictures and an equal number of travel related anecdotes before we get to that part of the story.

How was Montana? That's been the big question, and it's not easy to answer. Montana was amazing. It was an epic adventure, a relaxing vacation, a brotherly bonding experience, a return to nature, a... what can I say? It was freaking awesome. Want to hear about it?

Let's begin with the drive. The drive from Eugene to Polson is, according to Brent's somewhat obsessive iPhone calculations, no less than 687 miles. We know some lucky people (hi Doug! hi Mary!) who drive this in one shot, but with kids and puppy and all of that trapped in the car togetherness we thought it would be a good idea to stop and camp along the way at the mouth of the Deschutes, just east of The Dalles.

Everything was just fine. The drive went smoothly, nobody whined or barfed or shed any blood. The dog was quiet. We stopped at Burgerville for an early dinner. We set up camp. Life was good.

The campground is... intimate? These sites are really close together, and I always feel kind of guilty when I arrive at a campsite and unleash a carful of noise on the nearby unsuspecting campers, but we did it anyway, and it was all good. We did have a minor run in with a paranoid neighbor who rushed over to warn/terrify me about all of the snakes in the area. It was one of those "You might want to keep an eye on your kids..." sort of warnings, which was ridiculous because those little urchins were leashed and tethered to my side, as usual. Also, I might want to keep an eye on my kids? You mean AT THE MOUTH OF THE DESCHUTES RIVER? Got it covered, buddy.

Anyway, the kids enjoyed the novelty of camping (this was our first campout of the season) and Lulu made friends with just about every single person in the entire campground (she is a prom queen, I tell you) and the sun was shining and it all started to feel like vacation.

As you probably know from reading this blog, I make no claim to having any "answers" or to being even remotely knowledgeable about anything related to parenting, but I will say this: I think we figured out how to get the kids to sleep when we are camping. I know a lot of people who lie down with their kids to get them to fall asleep, but my kids turn into martial arts trained ninjas when they are falling asleep and will kick my ass right out of the tent if I tried that. Also, bedtime is beertime and in my book, camping is not camping without a few beers by the campfire, am I right? So Brent and I devised a scheme which involves 10 minutes of freak out time followed by time outs in the car and lectures about quite time and the comfort of other campers and a few bribes for hot chocolate at breakfast and soon enough the kids are exhausted and pass right out in that tent. And mom and dad get to enjoy a celebratory beer by the lantern light since no fires are allowed at the campground.

Unfortunately for us, our tent was right next to another tent that was crowded with pimply teenage gamers who stayed up into the wee hours discussing whose wizard was more powerful and which warlock overpowered which spell and whose immortality was stronger than whose and MY GOD there is this whole crazy fantasy subculture that I totally could have gone the rest of my life without knowing about. On the plus side, it was all so incredibly dull that we were lulled into a deep and peaceful sleep.

We hung out a bit the next morning and enjoyed the sunshine and a teenage girl wandered over from the gamer camp and became our au pair, following the kids around and playing with them and protecting them from mythical campground snakes. Brent and I packed up the car and then just kind of sat around, wondering how we could convince our new nanny to come to Montana with us.

This day was our driving day and I had mentally prepared for 8+ hours with the kids in the car, well, as much as one can mentally prepare for an event like this. We were armed with a secret weapon: the mini DVD player, which I am now convinced is an ESSENTIAL part of any family road trip. Yes, yes, I know! I never had one either and I survived those car trips with my family and went on to become a productive member of society too. But what I've come to realize is that the mini DVD player is not about indulging the children, it's all about the parents. The peace. The quiet. The downright tranquility even! Oh yes, I am a fan of the mini DVD player.

So we let the kids zombie out and rot their brains in front of the DVD player and I also bought not one, but two packages of Silly Bands, a pack of bubble gum, two super soaker type water cannon thingies, and a big old bunch of candy. Because we were going to make it through four states in one day or die trying.

It was a long drive. Sawyer kept asking if we were in "Fontana" yet.

We stopped for dinner in Wallace, Idaho, and if you ever get the chance you should do the same. It's an old mining town with a cute restaurant, a window display of gigantic stuffed animals (I'm not talking teddy bears), a wild west playground, and, apparently, it is also home to the center of the universe. Or so the sign says.

Because we poked around Wallace and avoided the car until the sun was about to set, we got into Montana pretty late. We had already gotten into that vacation mode where you lose track of the days- oh hell, I never know what day it is during the summertime- and as the sky grew dark the 4th of July fireworks began. We drove the narrow two lane highway into the darkness and oohed and ahhed as the sky behind, ahead, and to the sides of us was periodically illuminated by patriotic explosions. We arrived in Polson just as their fireworks show was starting and the streets were filled with families and boats dropped anchor to watch the sky light up around us. Brent couldn't resist the urge to pull over at a roadside stand and stock up on a few "real" fireworks.

And then we were there. And I'll have to tell you about the Big Sky Brewery Wild Animal Count, the windstorm, Glacier National Park, the bison range, huckleberry milkshakes, the bear (!!), how I almost got run over by a deer, Missoula, and gummy Coke bottles later.

Here's a sneak peek of Jack at the cabin on Flathead Lake.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I love Montana and I can't wait to keep reading about your trip!